F.D.A. Recalls Pet Foods over Life-Threatening Levels of Toxins


The Midwestern Pet Foods company has recalled certain varieties of its Sportmix pet food caused the death of 28 dogs while leaving eight others severely sick. The F.D.A. issued the recall after tests revealed aflatoxin levels that were above acceptable limits.

According to the announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) the Midwestern Pet Foods Inc. of Evansville, Ind., announced the voluntary recall on Wednesday of some of its Sportmix products distributed nationally online and in retail stores after tests showed that levels of the toxin, aflatoxin, exceeded acceptable limits. Cats and dogs that ingested the toxin experienced symptoms such as “sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice, and/or diarrhea,” adding that it could be fatal in severe cases. The F.D.A. said:

“Pets are highly susceptible to aflatoxin poisoning because, unlike people, who eat a varied diet, pets generally eat the same food continuously over extended periods of time […] if a pet’s food contains aflatoxin, the toxin could accumulate in the pet’s system as they continue to eat the same food.”

Contact Their Veterinarians | Sportmix Pet Foods 

Aflatoxin is “a toxin produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus, which can grow on corn and other grains” used in pet food, per the F.D.A. Pets are especially susceptible to the toxin because their diets tend not to be varied. The recall urged anyone with the impacted products to dispose of them:

“In a way that ‘children, pets, and wildlife cannot access them’ […] you should also wash and sanitize any surfaces that the dog food touched, like counters and your pet’s bowls.”

In addition to notifying the public of the recall, the F.D.A. also urged pet owners whose pets have been eating the food to contact their veterinarians, especially if they are showing symptoms. The pet food company first issued a recall of the products on December 30 after reports of dogs that had fallen ill after eating its Sportmix products.

There were no reported illnesses in cats or people as of Wednesday. Nonetheless, the F.D.A. said that it was “conducting follow-up activities at the manufacturing facility” where the food is produced and warned that case counts and the scope of the recall may grow. Veterinarians were encouraged to report any new cases, especially those that were confirmed through diagnostic testing.

Minimize Potential Exposure

Aflatoxin is the most potent naturally occurring toxins and liver carcinogens known. Food contamination is a significant risk factor for human health, particularly in developing countries that lack detection, monitoring and regulating measures to safeguard the food supply. It has been reported that approximately 4.5 billion people living are chronically exposed to uncontrolled amounts of aflatoxin.

Long‐term low‐dose dietary exposure to aflatoxin is also a significant risk for hepatocellular carcinoma. Aflatoxin has been designated as human liver carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Therefore, the control and elimination of aflatoxigenic fungi and aflatoxin in food have great significance. To minimize potential exposure to aflatoxin, maximum levels of aflatoxin have been established by different countries. 

Moisture the Single Most Important Parameter

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration specified a maximum of 20 ppb total aflatoxin for interstate trading of food and feedstuffs and 0.5 ppb aflatoxin M1 in milk. The European Commission has set the limits on cereals and derived products at four ppb for total aflatoxin and two ppb for aflatoxin B1 and nuts and dried fruits subject to further processing at ten ppb for total aflatoxin and five ppb for aflatoxin B.

The best approach to contain aflatoxin problem is prevention. Enough is now known about prevention to reduce contamination. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has suggested guidelines for preventing mycotoxins in farm commodities of Agriculture. Moisture is the most critical parameter, and prompt drying to safe levels is essential for controlling toxigenic molds. Foreign matter and the damaged seed should be removed. Providing clean, dry, adequately cooled, and ventilated storage is essential and good sanitation is essential to minimize mold contamination during storage and processing.